Sarah Callister Sellers is an American long-distance runner. From 2009 to 2012, she was a nine-time Big Sky Conference champion and competed in 5K, 10K, and cross-country. A stress fracture in the navicular bone of her foot cut her college career short. She dropped out of the running world for five years while she dealt with her injury, grad school, and work. “Being a runner was a huge part of who I was. When that was taken away, I had to re-evaluate who I was as a person. I realized the only thing to have as your foundation is really the gospel of Jesus Christ. Anything else can crumble. That was key.”
Sarah made her marathon debut in the Huntsville Marathon in Utah, which she won, and her time qualified her for the 2018 Boston Marathon. Her younger brother had talked her into running in the marathon. She had no sponsors and no agent, and she paid the $185 entrance fee. But she did have a coach, Paul Pilkington, who had coached her at Weber State University.
She finished second and earned $75,000. She also stunned the running world.
According to the Deseret News, “Sellers went up against a loaded field Monday that included five Olympic and world championship medalists, three former Boston champions, four of the five fastest American female marathoners in history, and 10 women who had run faster than 2:23 — more than 20 minutes faster than Sellers’ only effort.”
Sarah Sellers describes the weather during her run in the Boston Marathon as a "monsoon." But what she experienced as a runner while she drew strength from spectators along the route reminded her of a scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 84:88, in which the Lord promises to send angels to support his children during their trials.
- “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up," the scripture reads.
- ”During the last half of the race, when the 26-year-old from Utah was struggling and tempted to ease up her pace, she would look at the crowd and throw a fist pump or wave. It was their enthusiasm and encouragement that gave her the strength to keep going.
- She says the feeling she felt is analogous to the human experience.
- “We’re in the elements, we’re suffering, and we feel the pain at the moment. But really there are cheerleaders on both sides to buoy us up the entire time. If you are looking at the pavement, focused on the fact that you’re getting freezing rain from all angles, it’s easy to get down on yourself and feel alone," Sellers said in a telephone interview with the Deseret News Wednesday. "In the spiritual sense, we’re never alone, even if it feels like it. It’s probably because we’re looking down at the pavement. We need to face forward, focus on our goals, think about the reason we are there, and draw upon the support of our faith and our people."
- Discovering this parallel for running the race of life was just as meaningful to Sellers as her second place finish in this week's Boston Marathon. It helped to put all the adversity she's experienced into proper gospel perspective, including a serious injury in college and years of training in extreme elements, said Sellers.
"Perhaps Pilkington put it all in perspective best when he said, 'As a marathoner, the one thing you’re always asked is if you ran Boston. For the rest of her life, Sarah can say, yeah, I took second place.'"
Sarah placed 18th in the 2018 New York City Marathon with a time that was then her personal best (2:36:37). In 2019, she placed 19th in the Boston Marathon. In the 2019 Chicago Marathon, she was in 12th place with a time of 2:31:49. She shaved off a second on her time in the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials in which she placed 11th.
Sellers lives in Tucson, where she is a certified registered nurse anesthetist. Her husband, Blake, is an orthopedic surgeon.